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Ex-Rep. Hutchinson Takes Law Firm Job

A day after he stepped down as undersecretary of Homeland Security, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) announced that he’s taking the reins of the homeland security lobbying practice at the law firm Venable LLP.

The move will not, however, rule out a run for governor of Arkansas.

Hutchinson, a former two-term Congressman and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, had been, along with Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller, one of two leading Republicans in the race to fill an open gubernatorial seat in 2006.

In an interview, Hutchinson said he would make a decision about a gubernatorial run “down the road.” A crowded schedule of speaking engagements around the state in the next two months should help him make up his mind and lay the groundwork for a bid.

In addition to taking the post at Venable, Hutchinson is also moving back to his native Little Rock, where he will draw on his executive branch experience to launch a consulting firm there called Hutchinson Security Strategies.

Hutchinson said he plans to split his time between Arkansas and Washington.

“I’m pretty excited” to be joining Venable, Hutchinson said. Though a one-year lobbying ban prohibits him from lobbying certain offices of his former department, Hutchinson can lobby Members of Congress, which he said he “certainly might be doing.”

In addition to lobbying, Hutchinson, a lawyer for 21 years before entering politics, will be able to do legal work for Venable. He said that opportunity helped draw him to the firm.

“They have a broad range of legal practices,” said Hutchinson. “I like the experience they bring.”

Hutchinson first came to national attention as one of the managers of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

At Homeland Security, Hutchinson was charged with managing the security of American borders and transportation systems, in addition to setting immigration enforcement policies and developing visa security measures.

He signaled his interest in succeeding outgoing Secretary Tom Ridge, but stepped down from his post when President Bush passed him over for the top job, first for the aborted nomination of Bernard Kerik and later in favor of Michael Chertoff, who was recently confirmed.

In a statement, Ridge called his former employee “an excellent choice” to lead Venable’s homeland security practice.

Hutchinson declined to discuss his compensation.

“That’s one nice thing about the private sector,” he said. “I don’t have to disclose that.”

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